The House of Love - Live At The Lexington 13.11.13

by Rob Taylor Rating:10 Release Date:2014-11-24

Cherry Red Records have, for some time, been telling the backstory of seminal British rock and pop via some judiciously culled vintage releases, particularly in the form of lovingly compiled compilations like C86, my favourite re-issue of 2014. C86 showed that it's possible to tell a story of a musical era without resort to popularism and cliche, inclusive of bands whose juvenility were an impediment to commercial success. What they may have lacked in polish or high art, they retained in social and musical integrity, telling a complete story of Thatcherite Britain from an underground perspective.

 

Cherry Red have, after all, a history of producing music lovers' compendiums dating back to those inconsonant samplers, Pillows and Prayers, which sold for 99p in 1982. The deference shown to diverse, worthwhile and historically significant music and culture is also reflected in their stewardship of bands, who through misadventure, and the usual vagaries of music industry bust-ups, have perhaps not been given their just deserts. 

 

The House of Love are a band whose light shone very brightly over a brief period. John Peel did his utmost to provide zealous advocacy on their behalf beyond their implosion. The re-issue of their self-titled album on Cherry Red in 2012, in a three-disc omnibus, was a magnificent insight into a wonderful period of band creativity over a two year period in 1988/1989.

 

It was the first time we heard official live tracks, drawn from tireless European tours of the time. The passionate guitar interplay of Bickers and Chadwick was even more evident live than in the studio, as were their forays (essentially) into rock music, a reminder that House of Love were not some prolonged off-shoot of the C86 period.

 

Chadwick and co were, however, less about the white indie noise, and more about the execution of masterful and quite passionate pop songwriting. Terry Bickers, now once again the House of Love's lead guitarist, provides the perfect alchemy to Chadwick's yearning rock/pop compositions.

 

Live at the Lexington is a gorgeous release. The surprise for me was how superb the tracks from their 2013 release, She Paints Words in Red, sound on this release ('A Baby Got Back on Its Feet' (a-side, 2013), 'She Paints Words in Red', 'Lost in the Blues').

 

The subtle plucking of Bicker's guitar is stunning. His slide guitar solo on 'Lost in the Blues' is so luminous, such a poignantly resplendent candle-burner, it almost brought a tear to my eye. Nostalgia can do that to you, sure, but I'm a cynical bastard and it's no mean feat, OK ? 

 

The dark, blue-light infused, atmospheric accompanying DVD shows a wonderful close-up of fret placements by Bickers on that track. Bickers is chuffed with the audience response and suggests they might like "to drop around for a cup of tea," a statement of genuine warmth and hospitality.

 

Not one iota of the songwriting prowess appears to have gone astray during the bitter early split, the loss of Bickers and Andrea Heukamp, and the relatively barren commercial success of the years that followed. Perhaps the joy of the reunion, and the settling of emotional debts is the purge that Chadwick has been seeking.

 

All the hits are revived with controlled enthusiasm, not with the tired repetition of middle-aged men, but rather the renewed and reinvigorated impetus of contented genius.

 

*'Christine', 'Hope', 'Touch Me', and 'Road' from the self-titled debut, 1988

*'Purple Killer Rose', dual a-side with 'The Girl With the Loneliest Eyes'

*'Destroy the Heart' a-side with 'Blind'

*'Shine On', 'Beatles and The Stones', 'I Don't Know Why I Love You', and 'Se Dest' from House of Love, 1990

*'Phone' from A Spy in the House of Love – released between second and third albums (Fontana or Butterfly and Babe Rainbow)

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